Unison Research is the latest company to offer a power booster for low wattage amplifiers whose sound you love, but whose power is insufficient for your speakers. The Unico UPower booster amplifier ($2695 in silver, $2895 in black), pictured with Bartolomeo Nasta, Unison Research's Export Manager (left), and Marc Phillips, US Importer for Colleen Cardas Imports (right), is a class-A booster amplifier can quadruple output power up to 100Wpc, and, as with the Musical Fidelity Superchargers from few years back, is claimed not to change the sonic signature of the electronics it's paired with.
Universal Music Group must be taking its name seriously these days. At a time when some proclaim the demise of the classical recording industry, the conglomerate's many subsidiaries —Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Philips, and Archiv, along with ECM, which has only a marketing and distribution arrangement with UMG —are embracing new projects on multiple continents with determination and optimism.
Joe Skubinski of JPS Labs introduced its first two USB cables, the Superconductor Q USB (approximately $399/1m) and Superconductor 3 USB (approximately $799/1m). The cables are so new that Skubinski had to guess at the prices. Both boast a precision twisted-quad design with dual shields and gold-plated connectors.
Skubinski’s design goals were to transfer the digital signal as flawlessly as possible without radiating noise into adjacent cables. As I left the room, he and the folks from Usher loudspeakers were about to conduct an experiment to see if the Superconductor 3 could successfully transmit music recorded at 352.8kHz.
My first visit on the Show's final day was to the Usher room. After listening to their large BE10 floorstander ($14,400/pair), paired with the 2500 amp, 2200 preamp, and CD player (combined cost $5600) and cables from Shunyata and Stereovox, I was treated to Usher’s new entry-level $400 bookshelf baby. Seen here at the left of their lineup, other Stereophile writers had been impressed. While Usher’s little babies understandably offered less low bass extension than the big floorstander, they delivered far higher sound quality than anyone in their right mind could either expect or hope for at this price point.
To the growing number of USB cables on the market, Van den Hul now adds the USB Ultimate ($599/1.5m). Maarten Binnendijk, Managing Director of Van den Hul, claims that the company devoted two years to developing the cable to ensure that it "will beat all other USB cables." Only one way to find out. On your mark, get set, GO!
What actually transpired as the person in charge of the darkened room began to change LPs:
Me: What are you putting on?
Him: (sounding slightly hostile) What am I putting on?
Me: Yes. What music are you playing?
Him: It’s violin music.
Me: (To myself: Yes, I do know what a violin sounds like.) To him: What violin music?
Him: “I can’t pronounce it. Here, you look.”
Vapor Audio’s Rick LaFaver had reason aplenty to smile. Playing MA Recordings’ fabled CD of Sera Una Noche: La Segunda, his system nailed the timbre of instruments spot on. I was amazed at the depth he achieved from his small speakers, and took special note of the realistic decay of the sound of brushes on cymbals and bells being struck. “The hollow resonance of the percussion seems real,” I wrote in my notes.
Winner of my “Tied for Best Sound on the Hilton’s 3rd Floor Award,” which must count for something in someone’s bookthe other was the Perfect8 and BAlabo room, Veloce Audio’s LS-1 battery-powered tube preamp ($18,000) and Saetta battery-powered hybrid monoblock amplifiers ($18,000/pair) were producing their customary luscious, warm, clean, and ultra-smooth sound. Using a PC source equipped with J River Media Player, a Stahl-Tek Ariaa DAC ($12,000), Purist Audio Design Corvus cables and Ultimate USB, and YG Acoustic Kipod II Signature loudspeakers ($38,800), the system sounded great on George Benson’s “Paper Moon” and Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass’ “Moonlight in Vermont.” I especially enjoyed the copious amount of air surrounding Byron Janis’ piano. Color this system maximally seductive.
Having greatly enjoyed YG Acoustics' two-way Carmel loudspeaker ($18,000/pair) at the California Audio Show this past summer, I was eager to hear it in a different setting. This was the opportunity, paired with Veloce Audio's battery-powered set-up. The system also featured Kubala-Sosna Emotion cabling (price not supplied), the LS-1 Pure Tube linestage ($15,000)are there any impure tubes?and LP-1 Pure Tube phono module ($3000), and V-6 monoblock amplifiers ($14,000, presumably for the pair). Also doing the honors were the Amazon One turntable (price not available), and the PS Audio Perfect Wave transport/DAC combo (approx. $6000).
Dexter Gordon was in the midst of turning head over heels, or vice versa, over the sound of his LP, Dexter Blows Hot and Cool, in the Venice Audio room. He may have blown a bit cool over the out-of-control bass, but he surely found the beauty of his tenor sax, and the clarity of the cymbals hot indeed.